Sure, depending on the size and shape of an acoustic guitar, the sound can be vastly different, but all electric guitars are basically the same, right? Nope! Electric guitars come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and have different kinds of construction, materials, and more that can greatly affect how that guitar sounds. While you’ll often see specific guitar models and types across different genres, certain types of guitar are often more appropriate for certain styles of play; but guitarists like to break the rules!

In the world of electric guitars though, beyond body shape, there are also a myriad of other setups. This may include more obvious things like fretboard material and pickups, and less obvious or visible things like the specific types of wood used in the guitar’s instructions.

This article is mostly going to lean into electric guitar body types rather than go into a broader discussion on the technical aspects of electric guitar features. There will be further articles discussing the difference in things like pickups and the woods used to make guitars.

For now, let’s just concentrate on the major kinds of electric guitars!

Major Electric Guitar Body Shapes

Jump To Guitar Shapes

Stratocaster Shape          Les Paul Shape          Telecaster Shape

SG Shape          Hollow Body Shape          Other Shapes

When it comes to electric guitar body types, the shapes range from iconic styles pioneered by the likes of Fender and Gibson to more generic shapes that are what they are because they work. And of course there are the more unusual electric guitar shapes out there that are still relatively common.

I’m not going to go into the super weird, unusual, or custom made stuff like some stuff by Schecter, like the guitar they made for Prince. These don’t really fall into “major” electric guitar shapes and don’t really warrant discussion beyond the novelty value. With that, some of these guitars are so bizarre and rare, again, they’re not worth talking about if you’re trying to determine their tone and what they’re good for.

Fender Stratocaster Shape

Perhaps one of the most iconic electric guitar shapes is the Fender Stratocaster. While this shape was created by Fender in 1954, it has since been copied by a myriad of other guitar manufacturers whether that be Ibanez, PRS, or some random guitar company that makes cheap mass produced instruments.

The biggest thing most people will notice about a Stratocaster style body is the double cutaway that allows for easy playing up the neck. The Fender Stratocaster comes with a built in tremolo arm (sometimes called whammy bar), as do many of its clones. Another unique feature of the Stratocaster design that’s often copied is the tuning pegs being only on one side of the head; this creates convenience and has some effect on tone that I won’t go into here.

While the base Fender Stratocaster is a very versatile instrument that’s well suited for a variety of genres, due to its basic design with single coil pickups, it may not be appropriate for genres like Metal or Jazz. However, there are plenty of Strat style guitars with the right pickups and other specs that make it perfect for these genres. These aren’t guitars made by Fender, but the general shape is similar to a Stratocaster, making this body shape its own.

So if you like the look of a Fender Stratocaster but the tone and specs isn’t right for the music you like to play, check out something by a different company, you’ll be sure to find something you like the sound of with the Stratocaster look to match.

What Genres Are Stratocaster Style Guitars Good For?

It depends a little bit.

The traditional Stratocaster with single coil pickups is a great all rounder guitar but is especially good for Blues, Rock, and Pop.

Players in some genres won’t like the single coil pickups or the generally stripped back sound of the standard Stratocaster and will opt for something with a bit more oomph. This will make the guitar more suitable for Metal and Jazz.

Basically, it’s a versatile guitar shape, but a lot of it comes down to the actual hardware.

Who Plays A Stratocaster Style Guitar?

If we’re talking Fender Stratocasters specifically, you’ll recognise these being played by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Eric Clapton, and many, many more famous guitarists.

If you’re more curious about guitarists who play Stratocaster style guitars, look towards the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

Gibson Les Paul Shape

After the Stratocaster electric guitar body type, the Les Paul body type is perhaps the next most iconic. While it’s not copied quite as much as the Strat, the Les Paul still has plenty of imitators.

The Les Paul was created by musician Les Paul in the 1950’s. Other than playing Jazz, Blues, and Country music, Les Paul (the guitarist) was also a luthier and was an early pioneer in the creation of solid body electric guitars, like the Les Paul guitar. Sure, the Les Paul came after Fender’s early solid body electric guitars (the Esquire and the Broadcaster), but it’s not less important in the evolution of electric guitars.

While I realise this section of the article is quickly becoming a comparison of the Les Paul to the Stratocaster, it’s hard to talk about either of these icons without referring to the other. You’ll notice, compared to the Strat, that the Les Paul only has a single cutaway and is a more “traditional” guitar shape. On the technical side, the Les Paul also typically features humbucker pickups. There are a lot more differences, of course, but I’m mainly talking about shapes here rather than technical aspects. From a playing perspective, most players will notice a different in the fretboard, with some preferring Fender’s flatter fretboard style and some preferring Gibson’s slightly rounded fretboard.

Thanks to the overall bigger body and technical details like the humbucking pickups, the Les Paul style guitar (whether made by Gibson or not) tends to have a thicker tone than a smaller bodied guitar like a Stratocaster. This makes a guitar like this appropriate for almost all genres of music. But versatility goes both ways: sure the Les Paul is played across genres, but some say the Strat is a more versatile guitar overall.

But that’s just talking about Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls specifically. Your milage may vary if you go with the same body shape by a different manufacturer.


What Genres Are Les Paul Style Guitars Good For?

You name it, you can probably play it on a Les Paul style guitar. Sure, the body style has really found its home in Rock music, especially rock music that tends to get a little heavier but is still broadly “main stream,” at least when you’re talking about Gibson guitars specifically.

That being said, I have read that the Les Paul isn’t always the best for a cleaner tone, as the output from the humbuckers may distort things, but you’ll still see Les Paul styles guitars being played everywhere.

Who Plays A Les Paul Style Guitar

Other than Les Paul himself, the style of electric guitar is also notably played by Slash and was also played by Bob Marley. While Eric Clapton has been more famous to use a Strat, he did mostly play Gibson Les Pauls in his earlier years.

Fender Telecaster Guitar Shape

This article is quickly becoming a comparison of the Fender and Gibson guitar body shapes, but there’s a reason for this: these two companies have just been that prominent in the evolution of electric guitars. You’ll also notice that I’ve only discussed solid body guitars so far. Yes, there will be a hollow body electric guitar coming up on this list, but it’s just that solid body electrics are more popular, and I’m making this list roughly in order of popularity. And it’s Gibson and Fender who were the ones who pushed solid body guitars, hence their dominance.

But anyway… the Fender Telecaster! Again, Fender isn’t the only one who makes this electric guitar body shape, but they were the first. In fact, the Telecaster (at least the shape) predates the Strat.

Due to its pickup configuration, the Tele is known for having a very bright tone that great for high and mid sounds. But, like the Stratocaster, it’s also a pretty versatile guitar that appears across different styles of music.

However, despite appearing across different genres, the Telecaster was really originally known for its use in Country music, and continues to be played my a lot of country musicians.

Overall, you’ll find the sound of a Telecaster to be a whole lot more clear than a Les Paul style body while being a little rougher than a Stratocaster’s. It’s a good middle of the road body shape.

What Genres Are Telecaster Style Guitars Good For?

As mentioned, Telecasters have always been popular with country artists, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of Rock artists, particularly Indie artists from using a Telecaster. While there are a lot of guitarists who primarily play a Tele, you’ll also find many pick one up from time to time just to get the right tone.

Who Plays A Telecaster Style Guitar?

As mentioned, a lot of guitar players will pick up a Telecaster from time to time to get the tone they want. Keith Richards, for example, plays all sorts of different guitars, but he isn’t shy about using a Tele. Robbie Robertson of The Band has also played a Telecaster, but he also frequently played a Strat as well. If you want someone more modern than that, check out Jack White.

Gibson SG Shape

Bouncing back to Gibson now, the SG is another very notable electric guitar shape.

Originally, the Gibson SG was supposed to be an evolution of the Les Paul. However, Les Paul never really liked the design of the SG and had some personal stuff going on at the time, so he didn’t want his name on the guitar. Because of that, Gibson went with the creative name of “Solid Guitar” or SG for short.

Like all the electric guitar body shapes listed so far, the SG shape has been copied quite a bit, but nowhere near as much as the “big boys” like the Stratocaster and the Les Paul.

What players will find with an SG is that it’s thin; really thin. This makes the guitar awesome in the mid-range and gives it a little more oomph over something like a Les Paul. From a technical perspective, the pickups are in a different position when compared to a Les Paul which changes the guitar’s tone further.

Like a Stratocaster, the SG has an obvious double cutaway, giving it a horned look that makes it look a bit evil. While this was a great choice in terms of looks, it also makes the entire fretboard easily accessible.

What Genres Are SG Style Guitars Good For?

The SG works well for a lot of different genres of music. After all, it was supposed to be the successor to the Les Paul! That being said, the SG never really took off for genres beyond heavier Rock and Metal, mostly because of the way it looks. That hasn’t stopped guitarists of all genres from using the SG simply because it has the tone they like.

Who Plays An SG Style Guitar?

Probably the two biggest names to be noted for playing an SG are Angus Young and Tony Iommi, and both are known for heavier music. But it doesn’t stop with heavy Rock. Blue great Albert King also often played an SG, although he was perhaps more notable for his Flying V.

Hollow And Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar Shape

Hollow and semi-hollow body electric guitars often look similar so I’m chucking these into the same body shape, although they do have some differences in terms of sound.

As the name would suggest, hollow body electric guitars have hollow bodies, This is different from pretty much else listed so far as they’re all solid body electric guitars. Semi-hollow body guitars have a block of wood running through the middle on the inside, separating the sound chamber into two.

Hollow and semi-hollow body guitars have great tones that are similar to an acoustic guitar but because of this, can suffer from feedback issues if played too loudly. Because of the block of wood in semi-hollow body electric guitars, some of the feedback issues are reduced, and it starts performing more like a solid body guitar. Some may say this gives semi-hollow body electric guitars the best of both worlds, while others would say you’re just bringing in the negatives of both (less acoustic tone while still having feedback issues).

Despite these issues, hollow and semi-hollow body electric guitars sound great and completely unique when compared to the plethora of solid body body electrics out there! As mentioned, they’re not always great at high volume due to feedback, but they’re still popular in Blues and Jazz. They also get used a lot in Rockabilly.

What Genres Are Hollow And Semi-Hollow Body Guitars Good For?

As mentioned, look at these types of guitar if you’re not going to be cranking everything up to 11. Sure, you can use the feedback to your advantage if you know what you’re doing, but these types of guitars usually find their place in older styles of music like Jazz. A lot of the older Blues-men also played semi-hollow body electrics. And this doesn’t even go into Rockabilly and early Country, which was pretty much hollow/semi-hollow body exclusive since solid body electrics didn’t come about until the 1950’s.

Who Plays A Hollow Or Semi-Hollow Body Guitar?

B.B. King is the obvious answer here. He played a Gibson ES-335.

Somewhat more contemporary, Brian Setzer usually plays a Gretsch 6120, which is a hollow body guitar. This is the perfect kind of guitar for the Rockabilly Setzer plays.

Other Electric Guitar Shapes

Of course there are many other electric guitar body shapes, and these go beyond the novelty. Some are created just to look cook, some for better accessibility to higher frets, some are experiments that actually works, and more. Most of these are solid body style electric guitars. Some electrics incorporate hollow body designs into traditionally solid body instruments, like the Telecaster Thinline.

But when you’re talking about other electric guitar shapes you’re usually talking about guitars like the following.

Gibson Flying V and Explorer

These are often popular in Metal and heavy Rock. For the Flying V in particular, it’s extremely easy to play higher up the neck. Some players love the the mid-range tone that these guitars give. Ultimately though, these guitars are often more about looks, as you can get a similar tone out of other solid body guitars like an SG. That’s my opinion at least.

Offset Guitars

Offset electric guitars are a style that is asymmetrical. The asymmetry here is mostly referring to the the waist of the guitar; after all, the Stratocaster is symmetrical! The big names here are the Fender Jazzmaster, Jaguar, and Mustang. Offset guitars are often a lot more comfortable to play because the body is designed to with weight distribution in mind; you may find some guitars to slip while an offset guitar has an even weight distribution.

A Small Note On Pickups

This article has primarily focused on the overall shape of different electric guitars, and I admit I glossed over pickups a lot. Why? Well, the article is supposed to be about the general shapes and it’s also getting very long. I didn’t want to confuse things by talking about pickups as well.

With that in mind, the article is also mostly aimed at novices, especially perhaps those people who may be choosing their first electric guitar. But I agree, it’s important to consider pickups as well.

While I’ll write a longer article on pickups later, pickups generally call into two categories:

  • Single coil pickups: these are found on most Fender instruments and Fender style guitars like Stratocaster and Telecaster style guitars. Single coil pickups have a slight hum to them but have a crisper sound to them.
  • Humbucker pickups: humbuckers have two coils that cancel each other out, so they lose that single coil hum (hence the name!). This sound can be smoother than those of humbuckers.

If you are in the camp of choosing your first electric guitar, try two different guitars side by side to see what you like best in terms of sound.

And that’s good advice for any new guitar purchase. Sure, you may be attracted to a specific guitar model because of the looks, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But ultimately you also want that guitar to sound good too. So pick a guitar that you like the look of, but also make sure it sounds OK too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *